Monday, August 16, 2010

Could A Greener Ocean Mean More Hurricanes?

Last week Discovery News posted a story about how colossal blooms of plankton in tropical oceans could potentially effect hurricane development. The story recaps a study that will soon be released in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters.

According to scientists who worked on the "Blue Ocean" experimental study, plankton have the ability to determine whether clusters of tropical thunderstorms spin up into monster hurricanes. How so? Well, plankton's tiny photosynthetic bodies tint blue ocean green with chlorophyll. Green water traps light and heat from the sun shallow ocean water, which results in greater sea surface temperatures which as we know, makes for prime hurricane-forming conditions.

In using a computer simulation of a lifeless ocean, the scientists found that a blue ocean not containing plankton's chlorophyll laden specimen reduces typhoons in the northwest Pacific by 70 percent. What few storms did form in the simulation hugged the equator, the only area of water warm enough to sustain them.

However, it is noted
that because it takes time for the sun's heat to propagate through the ocean and have its full effect on the atmosphere, it likely takes several high- or low-plankton years to change the course and intensity of storms significantly.

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